Gratitude to Ron and to http://www.beyondmeds.com for this interesting post.
The psychiatric paradigm defines (and invites us to define) our distress or disturbance as ‘illness’ in need of ‘treatment’. Ron argues this thereby precludes the most effective healing agent of all – relationship – because from the outset the supposedly healing relationship is set up as an unequal one between ‘expert’ and ‘patient’, and invites the ‘patient’ to deny validity to/suppress a substantial element of their experience. This is fundamentally disempowering, and neither helpful nor therapeutic. As Ron says:-
‘….when we define people as definitely mentally ill, or “psychotic” in a way that has no possible redeeming value, we frame things such that the only way a person can form a good relationship with us is to turn against significant parts of themselves and of their own process.
Under such circumstances, true dialogue, in which the experience of the professional meets the full experience of the other, is impossible. It is only when we professionals accept and communicate the uncertainty of our own position, which includes uncertainty about what truly is “illness” or “psychosis,” that we can engage people in conversations which are sufficiently non-polarized as to allow exploring options for mutual improved understanding and perhaps mutual recovery from our difficulties and misunderstandings.’
Person-centered therapy has at its heart a conception of relationship founded on equality (however much our life experiences and landscapes differ one from another), a humility on the part of the therapist, and a willingness to engage with the mystery/unknown implicit in the experience of being human. The therapist has experience and abilities derived from their experience, personal process work and training. The person working with that therapist has a lifetime’s experience of being themselves, an unmatchable window into their moment-to-moment experiencing, and contains within themselves the only meanings and resolutions that can conceivably be useful to them – the birthing/realization of which the therapist may be able to facilitate if they are sufficiently tuned in, and if therapist and client can co-create a relationship of trust. Key to this is that the therapist hold their ‘knowing’ lightly and provisionally, as Ron describes, remaining open to the other person’s experiencing and to the essential mystery of being.
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994